The first Strikeforce event under the Zuffa banner takes place tomorrow night as Nick Diaz takes on Paul Daley in the main event, and we’ve got a full preview and our predictions for the televised card below.

Nick Diaz Vs Paul Daley:

We may as well deal with the ground portion of this encounter off the bat. Essentially, if Diaz gets Daley down then it’s only a matter of time before he secures a fight-ending submission. The differential between Diaz BJJ offense and Daley’s defense is just to great to come to any other conclusion.

First off Diaz needs to get the fight to the mat though, and that’s where things could get interesting. Takedowns aren’t Diaz’ strong suit, and Daley will have worked hard on his takedown defense in the build-up to the fight. You also have to factor into the equation that Diaz is more than happy to test his strking skills regardless of the opposition, so he’s unlikely to be relentlessly hunting for a chance to put the Brit on his back.

So it is possible we could see a stand-up battle, and that would be very intriguing. Daley is undoubtedly the harder puncher, with genuine one-punch KO ability, and has good boxing technique to go with it.

Diaz relies more on an accumulation of punches to do the damage, and his long, rangey, and pin-point accurate pitter-patter style of striking is well suited to that. It’s such an unusual style that’s more effective than it looks, often throwing his opponents off their own game, and how Daley responds to it will be crucial. If he doesn’t respect Diaz offense and just tries to wade through his punches, the sheer volume of them will take it’s toll in the later rounds.

Prediction:

As a purely striking contest this is a dangerous fight for Diaz due to Daley’s one-punch power, but I believe Diaz’ offensive output, cast-iron jaw and relentless cardio will give the UK fighter problems. The real x-factor here though is Diaz skill on the mat. He only needs to take this fight to the floor once to finish Daley, and in a five round fight that’s his ‘get out of jail free’ card if he’s coming up second best standing.

Nick Diaz to win by submission in Rd3

Gilbert Melendez Vs Tatsuya Kawajiri

Melendez gets a chance to avenge another loss and defeat a second big name Japanese opponent in a row when he defends his 155lb title against Kawajiri.

It’s not by chance that Melendez is the champ, he’s a tough customer with a well-rounded skill-set, with striking and wrestling being his key assets. Combined with a ton of heart and great conditioning that makes him a hard nut to crack.

Kawajiri is well aware of that having lost to Melendez by unanimous decision in 2006, but on his day the Japanese fighter has the skills to win the rematch. In many respects he has a similar skill-set to the champion, with solid stand-up and strong wrestling.

Interestingly the last time these two fought was in Japan in a ring. On this occasion a significant difference is that it’ll be in a cage, and the word is that Kawajiri hasn’t been training using a cage. In a fight this close small details like that could become very significant.

Prediction:

It’s a close fight, but Melendez seems to have grown as a fighter in recent years and I think he just shades this one. While they are similar fighters I believe the champion’s heart, cardio and self-belief will propel him to a victory on the scorecards.

Gilbert Melendez to win by decision.

Gegard Mousasi Vs Keith Jardine

Keith Jardine steps in on just a week’s notice to take on his toughest opponent since leaving the UFC, Gegard Mousasi.

At his best Jardine is certainly a dangerous fighter with his awkward but effective striking and reasonably solid all-round skill-set. He’s not the fighter he once was though, with his chin in particular being particularly fragile after a worrying string of KO losses during the later years of his UFC career, and his face being prone to cut easily which never plays well with the judges.

Meanwhile Mousasi is still young, fresh, dynamic and has rarely tasted defeat. King Mo may have unearthed a defficiency in his wrestling during their title fight, but beyond that his striking is excellent, allowing him to win some notable K-1 bouts in-between MMA fights, while he also has good takedowns, and is dangerous with both ground and pound and submissions.

Prediction:

All signs point to a Mousasi victory here. Jardine will stand tough and won’t give in for as long as his chin holds up, but I see Mousasi just having too much for him wherever the fight goes. Jardine is apparently contemplating a move down to 185lbs and this fight will ensure that’s his only viable option.

Gegard Mousasi to win by TKO in Rd2

Lyle Beerbohm Vs Shinya Aoki

Aoki’s last visit to the Strikeforce cage was hugely disappointing, being manhandled by Melendez for five rounds, while he’s also struggled to find form in Japan, so a win over Beerbohm is crucial.

Beerbohm, a product of the Strikeforce Challengers series is no pushover though. Having said that there’s no doubt that Aoki is formidable on the ground, particularly with his creativity and spontaneity with submissions. His stand-up is not nearly so impressive however, and his chin is questionable.

That’s likely to be something Beerbohm will look to exploit, and while he’s not the most technical striker, he’s tough and gritty enough to give the Japanese fighter problems in that regard. On the mat he’s going to be outgunned though, so he can’t afford for the fight to hit the floor.

Prediction:

Beerbohm is definitely a live underdog here, but I think this is a good opportunity for Aoki to get back on track with one of his slick submission victories.

Shinya Aoki to win by submission in Rd1

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